Courses & Curriculum

Degree Requirements

To earn their degree, students in the Master of Public Health in Community-Oriented Public Health Practice program must complete a minimum of 63 credits. Students take:

  • 36 credits of core courses
  • 6 credits of seminars
  • 6 credits of a practicum
  • 9 credits of a capstone project
  • 6 credits of electives


Through the core courses and seminars, you will build a solid foundation in the major disciplines of public health: epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, maternal and child health, social and behavioral sciences and global health. At the same time you will develop essential competencies in areas such as communication, management, teamwork, assessment and policy development.

Because of its focus on real-world practice, the COPHP program requires a more substantial service-learning component than most MPH programs students complete a capstone learning contract, spend 6 months working on-site, and give an oral presentation at the end. Students complete a practicum and a capstone project, both at a community-based agency or organization in Washington state. In addition, students engage in fieldwork projects as part of their coursework in community development and community organizing.

To fulfill the electives requirement, students can choose from a wide variety of courses offered by the School of Public Health and other schools at the University of Washington. Students who are also pursuing a graduate certificate in a public health specialty often take elective courses in their particular specialty. See the Graduate Certificate Option section below for more information.

Problem-Based Learning

Core courses in the Community-Oriented Public Health Practice program are taught using the problem-based learning method. Rather than learning through traditional methods such as lectures and textbooks, you'll work in small teams to analyze case studies about public health issues and develop your own solutions, with guidance from a faculty facilitator.

Case studies are created by COPHP faculty to target a course's learning objectives. By the time students graduate, they will have addressed more than 250 learning objectives through about 50 case studies. See a sample of case study summaries to get more insight into this learning approach.

Specialization Options

Students have a variety of ways to develop expertise in specific public health areas while completing the COPHP program. One option is to complete a graduate certificate, which generally requires 12 core course credits and 3 capstone credits. Graduate certificates are available in the following areas:

Another option is to concentrate all your electives in one area of study. For example, students who want to focus on environmental health could follow a schedule of courses relating to that area.

We also offer a concurrent degree program that combines a Master of Public Health in Community-Oriented Public Health Practice with a Master of Urban Planning. Please contact us for more information.

Core Course Sequence

Below is the sequence of core courses in the COPHP program. Students are also required to take at least 6 credits of electives during the program, as well as the other course requirements listed at the top of this page.

Year One

Total credits: 18
HSERV 531: Communities & Systems, Part 1 – Population Health (3)
HSERV 532: Communities & Systems, Part 2 – Community Development (3)
HSERV 533: Analytic Methods – Epidemiology & Biostatistics (6)
HSERV 534: Environmental Health (2)
HSERV 535: Health Behavior & Health Promotion (4)

Year Two

Total credits: 18
HSERV 537: Health Policy (6)
HSERV 538: Community Engagement and Participatory Evaluation (6)
HSERV 540: Management & Planning (6)

The COPHP program and faculty provided amazing training. Every day I put to use the practical skills I learned through problem-based learning, real-life projects and all the amazing cases we worked on. Much of what I do in my current job feels like second nature to me because of my experience in the program.

Ashraf Amlani, 2012 Graduate
Harm Reduction Epidemiologist, British Columbia Centre for Disease Control

I think the problem-based learning approach is what makes the COPHP program so worthwhile. When you're out in the real world, it's much more helpful to have those concrete skills and hands-on experiences.

Sarah Wylie, 2011 Graduate
Community Tobacco Specialist, Vermont Department of Health

Most of my core public health skills – like evaluation, policy analysis, assessment, community development and financial planning – come right from the problem-based learning of COPHP. More importantly, COPHP trained me to be able to take on new problems and develop solutions step by step. The program was what I needed to become a public health professional and to continue to grow in the field.

Sarah Ross-Viles,
2006 Graduate

Chronic Disease Program Manager, Public Health – Seattle & King County


Learn why problem-based learning and teaching is so effective.